Black Market Babies – 1946 Newspaper Article

30 Jun

Rainy days are meant for reading – at least in my rule book.  Having said that I found myself without a book in-progress so I decided to do a google search of the news archives and found this article on black market babies in the state of Washington in 1946.

I almost choked on my coffee reading the article as parts sounded just like adoption today – yes, I know they have made it legal now for expenses to be paid, but it has always bothered me and probably always will that enticements have become part and parcel of adoption.  It wasn’t okay when I was adopted, the mothers family paid the maternity home fees (based on income).  I do realize families did it to avoid the shame brought down on their family, and when that wasn’t the case anymore then “things changed” but isn’t anyone concerned with the mother feeling like they have to place?  It sure would burden me if someone had paid my expenses for months and expected to become the parents of my child.  Just does not sit right.

The Spokesman Review – May 16, 1946


Agencies Say Failure of Adoption Law Is Cause

By Bob Miller

A recognized black market in new-born babies is in existence in Spokane and other Coast cities chiefly because the present adoption laws make it almost impossible for would-be foster parents to obtain children from recognized agencies, welfare officials said here yesterday.

John F. Hall, Sealt, state director of the Washington Children’s Home society, said in Spokane yesterday that applications for children for adoption are far greater than the number of children available from the home.

Wait for Years.

Others recognised with the same situation, with many childless couples forced to wait for many months, sometimes years, before obtaining a child legally, although the number of unstable war marriages has caused a boom in children placed with agencies.

Major Orilla Hirst, superintendent of the Salvation Army Women’s Home and Hospital in Spokane, said yesterday that 3 to 4 percent of all live births are illegitimate. She indicated that approximately 47 per cent of the adoptions of illegitimate children are handled through individuals for profit rather than through recognized public agencies controlled by law.

Babies are boarded with private individuals for six-months periods while awaiting adoption, and in some cases the children are ill cared for, Major Hirst said. She mentioned one case of a woman with four small children of her own who was boarding four babies in squalid surroundings. The state pays $30 monthly for the boarding of each baby.

Major Hirst declared that in her opinion the black market could be wiped out and the adoption process speeded up if the agencies were permitted to place the child directly in the home of the its foster parents immediately.

“The six-month period is wrong,” she said. “The girls don’t like it because they feel their babies are not getting the care from paid nurses that they would from foster mothers.”

Because so much delay is encountered by adoptive parents in obtaining babies, the foster parents are dealing with individuals, usually to the profit of the go-between, it was pointed out by several agency officials.

Finding themselves on a long waiting list – in one Spokane case the parents waited seven years – the couple seeking a child turns to a doctor, midwife or the baby’s mother.

Pay Mother Direct.

Cases have been noted in which large sums of money are given directly to the mother in return for the child. Once the child is obtained this way it becomes relatively simple for the foster parents to obtain court approval for the adoption.

In other instances, however, an illegal virtual slave market exists. In these cases a go-between pays the mother’s hospital and medical expenses in return for a signed release for the child. This go-between then markets the baby to one of the couples waiting to adopt a child and charges whatever the couple is willing to pay.

Occasionally midwives have found markets for the baby before it is born, making the deal with or without the consent of the mother, who signs a release for the baby before being confined.

The Salvation Army is not an adoption agency, Maj. Hirst said but works closely with the county and state welfare agencies, the Children’s Home and Catholic Charities, in attempts to place children in decent homes.

Tightens Restrictions.

To date the Salvation Army hospital has successfully protected it patients from the black market in new-born infants, but it has tightened restrictions to make sure that persons desiring to adopt a certain baby are not working the baby racket.

“Laws for adopting children in this state have been improved in the last few years, but there still is need for the law to require more thorough home study before a child is placed in it.” Mr. Hall said here yesterday.

Many tempting promises are made to mothers of illegitimate children if they will turn their babies over for adoption in the black market, it was reported yesterday. These promises range from payment of hospital bills to trips, clothes and college educations.

According to Brig. Florence Turkington of the Salvation Army the adoption of babies without legal formalities is spreading rapidly in both large and small cities. “Unmarried mothers become easy prey to unethical baby adoption practices and in this newest black market babies are bartered as though they were nylon stockings, and sold for large sums,” Brig. Turkington, women’s social secretary of the Salvation Army, declared.


From the research I have done on Washington laws it took the state until 1951 to change the laws and it sounds like any signed relinquishments prior were to be upheld – isn’t that how they fixed the problem created by Georgia Tann?

“CHAPTER 251. [ S. B. 362.)1 ADOPTION AND CUSTODY OF MINOR CHILDREN AN ACT relating to the welfare of minor children, their care, custody, control and relinquishment for adoption or other purposes; and amending sections 26.36.010 and 26.36.040, R.C.W.; and repealing section 26.36.050, R.C.W.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Washington:

SECTION 1. Section 26.36.010, R.C.W., as derived from section 1, chapter 162, Laws of 1939, is amended to read as follows:

It shall be unlawful for any person, partnership, society, association, or corporation, except the parents, to assume the permanent care, custody, or control of any minor child unless authorized so to do by a written order of a superior court of the state. It shall be unlawful, without the written order of the superior court having first been obtained, for any parent or parents to in any wise relinquish or without transfer to another person, partnership, society, association, or corporation, the permanent care, custody, or control of any minor child for adoption or any other purpose, and any such relinquishment or transfer shall be void: Provided, That waivers and relinquishments heretofore signed by the parent or parents of said children or child shall be given the same force and effect as would be given prior to the enactment of this law.

None of the court proceedings in conformity with this chapter shall be open to the public unless other wise directed by the presiding judge.

[Am. Rem. Supp. § 1700-1.]

SEC. 2. Section 26.36.040, R.C.W., as derived from section 2, chapter 162, Laws of 1939, is amended to read as follows:

No maternity hospital, physician, midwife, or nurse, or any other person shall directly or indirectly dispose of infants by placing them in family homes prior to entry of order of relinquishment has been entered: Provided, That this shall not apply to spouses either of whom is the parent of such child where the family home wherein the child is placed is the home of the spouses.

No person, as an inducement to a woman to go to any maternity hospital, maternity home or place of refuge for confinement care, shall in any way offer to dispose of any child or advertise that he will give children for adoption, or hold himself out directly or indirectly as being able to dispose of children.

[Am. Rem. Supp. § 1700-4.] SEC. 3. Section 26.36.050, R.C.W., same being section 3, chapter 162, Laws of 1939, is hereby repealed. [Rep. Rem. Supp. § 1700-5.]

Passed the Senate March 8, 1951.Passed the House March 6, 1951.Approved by the Governor March 19, 1951″


Posted by on June 30, 2012 in Adoption, Ethics


Tags: , ,

8 responses to “Black Market Babies – 1946 Newspaper Article

  1. eagoodlife

    July 1, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Love how the article says ‘childless couples are forced to wait for years’!! Who is forcing them? They have choice! Adopt and wait or don’t adopt!


  2. Jennifer

    July 1, 2012 at 3:31 am

    Wow–this is an fascinating find. I don’t think much has changed–I know of a recent adoption where the birth mother was given $11,000 toward college.


  3. Paige

    July 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Wow! This is really interesting; not much has changed for the better! I agree with you, I have a general distaste for expenses especially expenses paid directly to a pregnant woman by the couple hoping to adopt. I think expenses are generally coercive.

    I hate the fact that adoption is big business and expectant parents in crisis and their children are commodities to be traded for profit (even through so-called “non profits!”). Having said that, I did cringe when I read the part about the 6-month requirement for foster care and the sub-standard conditions infants were placed in for that time period.

    We still have so much work to do in the Evergreen State. It’s discouraging that so little has happened towards reform in 60 plus years in this state.


    • TAO

      July 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      Hi Paige,

      By the mid 50’s they weren’t doing the 6-month thing – my oldest sibling came home direct from the hospital and his mother voluntarily surrendered directly to the state (no maternity home/agency in the area).


  4. lara harlow-hentz

    December 15, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Reblogged this on lara harlow-hentz and commented:
    …how much has changed? Lara


  5. Tammy g

    November 22, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    My mom was given up in 1946 in indiana allthough there is no record of adoption with the state. Through DNA research my mom has found a full sister and a half sister. They all had the same mother and were all given up at birth. None of them have accurate birth certs. Two of the bc have the same midwifes name Elizabeth Drozdy. Why would a woman give up 3 daughters at birth? Why no records?


    • TAO

      November 22, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Tammy. They have birth certificates from the state? If yes, it lists the adoptive parents? When (year) did you (your mom) try to get adoption records?


  6. Cindy

    November 22, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    “…many childless couples forced to wait for many months, sometimes years, before obtaining a child legally…”

    This is enough to make me sick. Oh poor you. Obtain legally? No. Any promise or money given to “lift the debt burden” of a mother is extortion. As some have said, it is legalized kidnapping. In looking up the definition of those two words, I’m inclined to agree that kidnapping is exactly what it is. Because from this mother’s experience, that’s exactly what it was. It was anything but voluntary. It still goes on to this day, only now, the treachery use is more insidious.

    It is so hard for a mother to read things like this and to see no difference between then and almost 40 years later. To see and feel the horribleness of it all because nothing really changes. Adoption needs to be razed and something better, noble, right, just and equitable put up in it’s place.

    Sorry for the rant Tao, November again (naam) and racing towards December loss anniversary.. oh I ‘love’ this time of year. Righhhht.

    Liked by 1 person


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